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Full text of "Poland Russia and Great Britain 1941-1945"

Four hundred and five men, chiefly airmen, were left behind in these
three camps and, in June, they were all deported to one camp, Grazovets,
in the Vologda province. The officers who were moved first promised
to write to their fellow prisoners in the camp, but no letters were received.
Two months had now elapsed since the order for the release of Polish
citizens had been issued and from those three above-mentioned camps not
one person had, up till then, been sent back to the Polish authorities.
From Grazovets a group of ofiicers arrived at Buzuluk, where the Polish
headquarters had been established and these were able to give some news
regarding the Kozielsk, Staro Bielsk and Ostaskov camps. The anxiety
of the Polish authorities deepened and the Polish Ambassador and
Commander of the Army approached the Kremlin leaders on the matter.
They asked Stalin, Molotov, and Vyshynsky, what had become of
these 8,300 officers and 7,000 N.C.Os. and civilians, who were imprisoned
in the camps up to the time when they were disbanded. The Polish
Ambassador insisted that he must be provided with a copy of the lists of
prisoners, which he understood had been made out in detail and should
have been kept up-to-date by the Soviet authorities. At the Kremlin on
December 3rd, 1941, General Sikorski asked Stalin bluntly " Where are
these people ? " He simultaneously produced a list of 3,843 names of
missing Polish officers which, compiled with the assistance of their fellow-
prisoners, was naturally incomplete. Stalin replied, as before, that all
Poles, without exception, had been released, and both he and Molotov
expressed surprise at their non-appearance.* When Sikorski, dissatisfied
with the reply pressed this point, Stalin vouchsafed the opinion that they
had no doubt escaped from the concentration camps—a supposition,
which was most improbable. It was impossible to escape from a Russian
prison or concentration camp. The guard in every instance had
to answer with his own well-being for any deserter. It is not difficult
to imagine that, in order to preserve his own skin, such a guard would use
all possible means to prevent any prisoner from escaping, particularly as he
would in no way be held responsible should the prisoner be killed hi the
attempt. Instances of escape among Soviet prisoners are unknown.
Therefore, Sikorski could well ask with amazement" But where could they
have escaped to ? " Stalin's reply had been " To Manchuria ! "
This statement was made with such finality that it was useless to put any
further questions. But anyone with a knowledge of Russia will realise at
once the sheer impossibility of many thousands of men escaping where not
even one could succeed, especially as these camps were in Western
Russia, and to reach Manchuria, 6,000 miles away, they would have to
* Yet in spite of this statement, on January 29th, Moscow radio broadcast a
resolution from a meeting held by the Polish prisoners-of-war in camp "number
79," that they were anxious to fight against" bloody Hitler/* and giving a unanim-
ous vote to join the ranks of the Polish Army in Russia." Therefore, in
January, according to Moscow's own admission, there were still Poles in the prison
camps.
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